In-laws: 'Killer was a master manipulator’

 

The man who burned his family to death was a "master manipulator" jealous of his estranged wife and controlled every aspect of her life, according to the victim's parents.

Three children, Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, were found dead inside a burning vehicle on Raven St in Brisbane's Camp Hill after police were called to the scene about 8.30am on Wednesday. The mother of the children, Hannah Clarke, 31, screamed "he poured petrol on me" when she was pulled from the car with skin melting off her body but later died of her injuries in hospital.

According to witnesses, the father, Rowan Baxter, 42, jumped into his estranged wife's car while she was on the school run and set it on fire before yelling at bystanders to stop helping, then taking his own life. He was on a restraining order when he ambushed and murdered his family. Baxter was declared dead on site after emergency crews attempted to revive him.

On Thursday, Hannah's parents Lloyd and Suzanne Clarke told Daily Mail Australia that the killer had been controlling and emotionally abusive since the start of the pair's relationship 11 years ago - when Hannah was just 20. The devastated couple described their former son-in-law as a "master manipulator"who tried to isolate their daughter from friends and family.

"We always had misgivings about him," Ms Clarke told the site.

"He was always controlling, he ruined her relationship with everyone, even tried to get her away from us.

"We'd go down to the coast and if they turned up and saw us there, they would go to another beach."

Mr Clarke said Baxter put on a mask to the outside world and convinced most people he had been "hard done by".

"He makes people think he's a nice guy, then he sponges off them and burns them when he's done with them, and moves on," Mr Clarke said.

"He sponged thousands off us and Hannah."

Ms Clarke said Baxter couldn't stand how her daughter, a champion athlete who won gold medals in trampoline, would outshine him. She also had more qualifications as a trainer than her husband, which also bothered Baxter, according to the Clarkes.

"He was jealous of her sporting success and when she beat him in crossfit. He had a chip on his shoulder because he didn't make it as an NRL player," Ms Clarke said.

 

Rowan Baxter and Hannah Clarke had been together 11 years when he killed her and their three young children.
Rowan Baxter and Hannah Clarke had been together 11 years when he killed her and their three young children.

 

Hannah Clarke with daughters Aaliyah and Laianah.
Hannah Clarke with daughters Aaliyah and Laianah.

 

Hannah Clarke and Rowan Baxter.
Hannah Clarke and Rowan Baxter.

Earlier, the slain mother's sister-in-law Stacey Roberts said Ms Baxter's parents had "exhausted themselves" trying to "help Hannah escape this monster" and asked for donations to help cover funeral costs via a fundraiser.

"As you may be aware my beautiful sister in-law and my nieces and nephew had their lives taken by a disgusting human being they called their father," Ms Roberts wrote on the fundraising page, which had raised more than $88,000 as of Thursday night.

"For all those who knew Hannah or had even just met her once would know how much of a beautiful soul she was, her children were her life.

"All she ever wanted was happiness. Her children were only a reflection of her. Gorgeous, happy kids who held a massive piece in my heart and I'm sure many others because that's exactly what they were like.

"We will miss them all more than anything."

The horror unfolded in a suburban street where witnesses tried to save a mother of three and her children.
The horror unfolded in a suburban street where witnesses tried to save a mother of three and her children.

 

The scene of a car fire on Raven Street in Camp Hill. Picture: Steve Pohlner
The scene of a car fire on Raven Street in Camp Hill. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Mr Baxter reportedly purchased a jerry can of fuel from a nearby petrol station which he used to ignite the fire.

Another resident dragged Ms Baxter out of the car as she screamed: "he's poured petrol on me" but she died in hospital hours later.

The witness told The Australian that Ms Baxter was "rolling on the footpath in flames". Another described seeing skin "peeling off her (with) … bits hanging off", according to The Courier Mail.

Neighbour Aaron Snell told the newspaper that Mr Baxter tried to stop bystanders from extinguishing the flames.

"He was protesting to stop (us) putting it out," Mr Snell said.

"He was so angry and just going absolutely crazy.

"It appeared like he wanted it to burn."

He said Mr Baxter was in "all manner of states" and jumped into the flaming car to grab a knife while neighbours tried to help.

 

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Hannah Baxter and Rowan Baxter with kids Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey. Picture: Facebook
Hannah Baxter and Rowan Baxter with kids Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey. Picture: Facebook

Ms Baxter and her three children had been staying with her parents in Camp Hill after leaving her husband late last year.

Family friend Brian Cavanagh described the incident as "beyond comprehension".

"I couldn't figure out how come Hannah was in the car with him," he said.

 

Hannah Baxter with her son Trey. Picture: Facebook
Hannah Baxter with her son Trey. Picture: Facebook

 

Rowan Baxter was a former rugby league player. Picture: Hannah Johnston/Photo Sport
Rowan Baxter was a former rugby league player. Picture: Hannah Johnston/Photo Sport

 

Mr Baxter’s recent Facebook posts all revolve around his children. Picture: Facebook
Mr Baxter’s recent Facebook posts all revolve around his children. Picture: Facebook

It is understood Mr Baxter, a former New Zealand Warriors player, was in a custody battle with Ms Baxter, according to The Courier-Mail.

Mr Baxter's recent posts on Facebook all revolve around his children, with him sharing multiple photos of the kids and writing, "Daddy loves you."

One of Mr Baxter's Facebook friends told him to "chin up".

" … everything will work out just hang in there my bro a lot of people care about you and the situation your facing," he wrote.

A New Zealand Warriors spokesman said Mr Baxter was in their NRL squad in 2005.

"Rowan didn't play an NRL match. He was in our full-time NRL squad in 2005. He played in NRL trials," the spokesman said.

CAUSE OF FIRE INVESTIGATED

Mr Thompson said it was too early to comment on how the fire started.

"How the fire actually occurred has not been ascertained at the moment, so for us to call it a murder-suicide or a tragic accident, it's inappropriate at this stage," he said.

"I've seen some horrific scenes - this is up there with some of the best of them.

"It's a terrible thing to be presented with."

Police are on the scene of the fatal fire. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian
Police are on the scene of the fatal fire. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

 

A crime scene has been established and investigations are ongoing. Picture: Steve Pohlner
A crime scene has been established and investigations are ongoing. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Queensland Ambulance Service senior operations supervisor Adrian Tong said two people were taken to hospital with burns.

The burnt out car is removed that Rowan Baxter killed his three children is towed away. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian
The burnt out car is removed that Rowan Baxter killed his three children is towed away. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

Ms Baxter was one of those patients, along with another man who was injured when he tried to help the family.

"Somebody did step in to try and help that was close by," Mr Tong told reporters at the scene.

"I think he tried his best to get to the car."

As a result the man had to be taken to hospital and treated for minor burns to his upper body and face.

 

Mr Tong said the situation was very confronting for the first ambulance crews that arrived on the scene.

"We did all we could but it was confronting. The first couple of crews that got to the scene were confronted with some deceased people," he told reporters.

"They quickly moved on to the people that needed treatment."

 

 

 

Police were called to the scene at about 8.30am. Picture: Supplied to ABC
Police were called to the scene at about 8.30am. Picture: Supplied to ABC

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